Valor For Sale

| May 28, 2020


The auction house Hermann Historica in Munich, Germany is selling a U.S. Medal of Honor on Thursday that was awarded to Pvt. Thomas Kelly for actions during the Spanish-American War. The auction house expects to take in about $5,000 on the sale. 

In the United States, selling decorations awarded by Congress is illegal, with stiff fines and a potential prison sentence. This does not apply overseas, unfortunately, and these awards may be bought and sold at leisure. Even a Congressional Medal of Honor.

Our own ninja sends.

Senator calls for State Department to stop sale of US Medal of Honor in Germany

By ROSE L. THAYER

AUSTIN, Texas — A Medal of Honor awarded to an Army private from New York for his actions during the Spanish-American War is listed for sale Thursday at a German auction house and Sen. Ted Cruz wants the State Department to intervene.

With an asking price of more than $3,200, the Medal of Honor — given to Pvt. Thomas Kelly in 1899 — is listed online with the Munich-based Hermann Historica auction house in a catalogue of more than 900 items described as “International Orders and Military Collectibles.”

“The sale harms the dignity and honor of all recipients of the Medal of Honor,” Cruz, R-Texas, wrote Tuesday in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is an Army veteran.

The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest military award the senator noted selling military medals awarded by Congress is illegal. Federal law authorizes fines of up to $100,000 and a year in jail.

“In this context, I urgently call on you to work with the U.S.’s foreign partners, including with officials of the Federal Republic of Germany, to ensure the sale is suspended,” Cruz wrote.

Sen. Cruz’s heart is in the right place, but I doubt he’ll stop the sale. Read the entire article here: Stars and Stripes

Thanks, ninja.
(whtbn)

Category: Guest Link, Historical, International Affairs, ninja

Comments (29)

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  1. Cameron says:

    Yep. Different country, different rules. Not too sure if the US can do much of anything to stop the sale.

    • Twist says:

      Most likely the only successful course of action that the US could take would to just buy the medal themselves.

    • Green Thumb says:

      Cruz should just buy it and return it to where it needs to go.

      • Cameron says:

        That’s another possibility. In fact, that’s something he should do if it bothers him so much. It is up for auction.

  2. Green Thumb says:

    Curious if All-Points Logistics has put in a bid?

    • Hack Stone says:

      You would be surprised as to (see what Hack did there?) what All Points Logistics has bid on.

      That’s an inside joke that Hack wishes he could share.

  3. Comm Center Rat says:

    PVT Thomas Kelly is buried at the old Plattsburgh Barracks Post Cemetery on the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base along Lake Champlain. As a Cub\Boy Scout I remember visiting his grave site many Memorial Days when we distributed American flags to honor the veterans buried there. To see his name after all these decades brings back a lot of good memories of being a military brat on SAC bases.

    Sad to hear of his MoH being auctioned, but “time will not dim the glory of [his] deeds.”

    • Sapper3307 says:

      Sounds like a bike tripe for this summer, from Vermont.
      (note to self leave Sig at home)

  4. Mason says:

    Interesting tidbit from your favorite valor researcher. There have been three Thomas Kelly (or Kelley) to receive the MoH.

    Private Thomas Kelly, USA – This article’s subject. Received his MoH for actions in the Spanish-American War.

    Corporal (later Sgt) Thomas Kelly, USA – WWII infantry medic. Received the MoH for repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire to rescue downed personnel in the ETO.

    Lieutenant (later Capt) Thomas Kelley, USN – Receiving his MoH in Vietnam for placing his patrol boat in the line of enemy fire to protect his men on another boat under heavy fire. He lost his eye from an RPG blast.

    I met Captain Kelley briefly once. Very pleasant and humble man. Even in our short encounter I could see why his men followed him.

    All three of these men are part of the inordinately high percentage of MoH recipients who are Irish. The fightin’ Irish isn’t just our reputation for being belligerent drunks.

    • Mason says:

      Oh, and Capt Kelly has the greatest middle name for a Medal of Honor recipient.

      Thomas Gunning Kelley!

      • AW1Ed says:

        I was just going to start a search for his MOH citation. Should have known better.
        *grin*

  5. QMC says:

    Article didn’t mention how the Auction Company came about obtaining it. Imagine family is somehow involved.

    • SFC D says:

      I’m thinking it came from someone trying to circumvent US law and sell it overseas, could be family involved.

      • 5th/77th FA says:

        Was typing that very question as y’all were posting, obviously. Took me awhile once started to not only compose the question, but to also compose myself. Ms Thang came into my hermit cave and made me take my BP. She said steam was coming out my ears. SMDH!

        • SFC D says:

          The question is, was the rise in BP and the corresponding steam a result of this article, or the presence of Ms Thang?

          • 5th/77th FA says:

            The article, ‘D. Ms Thang cause something else to “raise”. AND relieved some pressure.

    • Andy11M says:

      The article mentions “The seller, who wishes to remain anonymous, is an elderly man “looking to beef up his pension,”” Doesn’t mention how he got it. Could be a family member, or someone who came into possession of it some other way. Clearly they only care about the small amount of money it will bring, and I have to wonder with what will go to the auction house, how much they will really get.

  6. 5th/77th FA says:

    I agree with the general consensus that there is very little, if anything, that the US can do to stop this sale from going thru.

    The elephant in the room question that has yet to be raised is how did The Medal get to the Auction house? If placed there by an inheriting family member, how did Kelly’s blood get so watered down? I, personally, find it appalling that a Family would want to get rid of something of that magnitude. YMMV

    Maybe Comm Center Rat or someone has people up near PVT Kelly’s Grave site that could go check out his Headstone. It may be tilted from all of that turning in his grave. Pity, no, it’s a damn shame.

    • Andy11M says:

      They mention the auction house has sold three other Medals of Honor in the past. I guess some people just view it like some dusty collection of china that belonged to their many times great grandmother. So they have no problem selling it for what ever they can get.

  7. ninja says:

    The Auction took place today and Thomas Kelly’s Medal of Honor was sold for 14,000 Euros or $15,445.21 United States Dollars:

    https://www.hermann-historica.de/en/auctions/lot/id/72055

  8. ninja says:

    According to the Military Times:

    “Dave Knaus, a spokesman for the National Medal of Honor Museum, told Military.com that the museum is looking into who bought the medal and contemplating future steps. He said the museum is currently compiling historical data on other medals that have gone missing or changed hands.”

    “Efforts to locate a surviving relative of Kelly, who died in 1920, had not been successful, Knaus said.”

    “Army Private’s Medal of Honor Sold for More than $15,000 by German Auction House”

    https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/05/28/army-privates-medal-honor-sold-more-15000-german-auction-house.html

  9. ninja says:

    Here are pictures of Thomas Kelly’s Headstone:

    https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/7867557/thomas-kelly

    Born 17 Mar 1871 in Longford, County Longford Ireland.

    Died at the age of 49 on 17 December 1920 in Plattsburg, Clinton County, New York

    “Spanish American War Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. Born in Ireland, he served as a Private in Company H, 21st Infantry, US Army. On July 1, 1898, during the battles to take San Juan and Kettle Hills outside Santiago, Cuba, Private Thomas Kelly was one of the soldiers assisting in the rescue of wounded from the front lines. When the Americans were advancing across large areas of open ground, Private Kelly rushed to the rescue of the wounded under heavy enemy shell fire and snipers at the edges of the jungle. For gallantry in the face of the enemy, he was awarded the Medal of Honor on June 22, 1899 and later achieved the rank of Sergeant First Class.”

  10. ninja says:

    According to this source, Thomas Kelly served 30 Years and retired in March 1920, possibly as a SFC in the US Army.

    He may have been a Supply Daddy since the article states he served as a Quartermaster SGT in the Quartermaster Corps, US Army, at Plattsburg Barracks from 1917-1920:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=IzArAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA209&lpg=PA209&dq=thomas+kelly+spanish+american+war+medal+of+honor&source=bl&ots=XtbtUVhtKa&sig=ACfU3U3UhRUYHwkzrMK3kEBFqzvGs-sWYg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi1lODErtfpAhXklXIEHQSPCs44HhDoATAHegQICRAB#v=onepage&q=thomas%20kelly%20spanish%20american%20war%20medal%20of%20honor&f=false

    • 5th/77th FA says:

      ninja, you don’t know just how proud and happy that some of us that you are back into the fight and leading the charge to dig up “the rest of the story” for the “inquiring minds want to know.” The linkys that you provided added such a wealth of information for us. It’s too bad the auction house, or whomever, didn’t contract with you to find a living relative. My guess is that they didn’t really try very hard. With the average fees running from 10-25% they made themselves a tidy little sum of 1500-3000 USD/equivalent in funny money.

      Ret SFC Kelly, an Irishman born on St Paddy’s Day, came to America, and served his adopted Country with high honor. Died relatively young too.

      Slow Hand Salute SFC Thomas Kelly!

      Again, Thanks to our “we have the best” ninja! rtr/gabn/hbtd

  11. ArmyATC says:

    That should never be in a private collection unless it’s in the hands of his family. Maybe have the government purchase the medal through an intermediary. Then have it proudly and prominently displayed in the new National Museum of the United States Army.

    https://www.thenmusa.org/

  12. Dennis - not chevy says:

    For a second I thought maybe the family didn’t know what they had. I mean, I’ve seen military awards in museums that turned out to be awards from military style boarding schools. I quickly dismissed these thoughts of innocence when reality hit; if the family didn’t know; why was it being sold in Germany? Perhaps, the family is innocent and the medal was stolen from them.

  13. Commissar says:

    The US ambassador could probable negotiate a purchase on behalf of the US.

    If Trump latched onto this issue he likely would order it be done.

  14. rgr1480 says:

    Or the medal could have been sold/traded and ended up in Europe before the law outlawing the sale, trade, or possession was enacted.